Tuesday 23 August 2016

Supreme Court slams Kejriwal government, orders radio trackers for trucks entering city

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court came down on the Kejriwal government on Monday for dragging its feet on installing radio frequency identification devices (RFIDs) at 13 main entry points to Delhi and advised it to be "progressive" and not "obstructionist". Amicus curiae Harish Salve and Aparajita Singh informed a bench of CJI T S Thakur and Justices A K Sikri and R Banumathi that the proposal to install RFIDs was approved
by the Environment Pollution Control Authority, Delhi government and South Delhi Municipal Corporation. But on Monday , Delhi government counsel Chirag Shroff told the court that the transport department was examining the feasibility of the proposal. The bench retorted, "Will your transport secretary sit in judgment over the proposal? Is he being advised by some contractor? Why are you being obstructionist? You are not spending a penny on this from your revenue. It is being installed from the ECC (environment compensation cess) money". Delhi government counsel Chirag Shroff sought time to get back with the government's response on the RFID proposal.

Salve said the RFID proposal was seen as a move towards eliminating irregularities and corruption in collecting toll and the SC-imposed ECC on trucks entering Delhi, serving the dual purpose of increasing revenue and preventing entry of trucks using Delhi as a transit route.

The court accepted the EP CA report as well as the proposal to set up RFIDs at 13 entry points at a cost of Rs 120 crore over the next five years. As per the court order of October 9 last year, funds from the ECC were to be used for installation of RFIDs, improving road condition and augmenting the city bus fleet.

Salve informed the court that from November 6 last year to August 4 this year, Rs 330 crore was collected as ECC which means it would amount to an average Rs 432 crore a year. In October last year, the SC had imposed an ECC of Rs 1,300 on heavy goods carriers and Rs 700 on light commercial vehicles carrying goods for Delhi while banning entry of all other commercial vehicles into the city.

The bench advised the AAP government to be "progressive and forward looking" and said, "these systems have been in place in European countries for the last 30 to 40 years. Systems should be put in place and not speculate (sic) how many trucks pass through Delhi".

Salve said imposition of ECC had deterred many trucks, which in the past used Delhi as a transit route, from passing through the national capital and this had contributed significantly in reducing pollution.

But the time had come to be prepared to fight air pollution ahead of the coming winter, he said. "Delhi government must augment the city bus fleet with modern and comfortable buses and construct cycle lanes. It is too dangerous to ride a cycle to office in this city at present," he said.

The bench accepted the EPCA proposal and ordered release of Rs 93 lakh to government-owned RITES Ltd, which has been entrusted with the task of vetting the proposal, including the pretendering process.

The court also asked South Delhi Municipal Corporation to start work on RFID in "right earnest and submit status report" to the court periodically. 

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